German exhaust systems supplier Eberspächer said sales fell 15 percent to E321 million in the first quarter.
But almost all of the decline was due to lower prices for precious metals used in catalytic converters. Precious metals make up 40 percent of final sale prices of exhaust systems.
"Our own performance was at about the level of last year," said CEO Günter Baumann.
Last year, Eberspächer increased sales of exhaust technology by more than 15 percent excluding the effect of rising precious metal prices, Baumann said. Last year, then-rising prices for platinum and palladium raised sales 20 percent to E1.62 billion.
Sales were driven last year by new Audi and DaimlerChrysler models, a face-lifted BMW 3 series and the Volkswagen Passat.
This year Eberspächer began building exhaust systems for the new Skoda Superb.
Despite strong sales, 2001 after-tax profits fell from E31 million in 2000 to E9 million last year, or 0.5 percent of sales.
Baumann blamed falling profits on heavy investment in research and development - new centers near Paris and Detroit.
Eberspächer says it will be 2004 before the investments pay off.